This weekend I attended the 2015 San Antonio Auto and Truck show at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. If you are a car or truck enthusiast—then this is the show for you. (I’ll post a photo at the bottom of this blurb of my favorite car at the show.)
But anyway—at the show—The San Antonio Police Department (SAPD)—set up a booth to help bring public awareness TO Drunk Driving. The officers demonstrated what it is like to perform the walk-and-turn test (WNT) after you are intoxicated. (By the way—these officers were very cool and I enjoyed talking to them.)
Below is a link of me performing-or trying to perform-the WNT with and without “beer googles.”
So what is the walk-and-turn test? It is one of several divided-attention tests used by police to determine if a driver should be arrested for DWI. Other common tests are the One-Leg Stand (OLS) and Horizontal-Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test, i.e., the eye test. The walk-and-turn test has two parts: (1) the instruction stage; and (2) the walking stage. Here’s how it works.
During the instruction stage—the officer instructs the driver to place his or her left foot on a line (either real or imaginary). Then the driver places the right foot in front of the left foot and stands with their hands at their sides. The driver is then required to maintain that position until the officer has completed explaining the instructions of the test.
The driver is required to take nine heel-to-toe steps, turn in a prescribed manner (i.e., “the beauty queen twirl” described in the video above) and then take nine heel-to-toe steps back. The turn is required to be performed in a specific manner—more on that below. The driver is also required to keep his or her hands at their sides and is not allowed to stop until the test is completed. The driver must also watch his feet and count out loud the number of steps taken.
Police look for the following clues to determine if the driver is intoxicated:
1. Driver cannot keep balance while listening to instructions;
2. Driver starts test before officer finishes explaining instructions;
3. Driver stops (pauses for several seconds) the test while walking;
4. Driver does not touch heel-to-toe (this means drivers leaves more than one-half inch gap between the heel and toe of any step);
5. Driver steps off the line;
6. Driver uses arms for balance;
7. Driver makes improper turn (makes a “beauty queen spin” or any other turn that does not comply with the instructions); and
8. Driver takes incorrect number of steps.
TEST SCORES AND INTERPRETATIONS:
According to their training, if a police officer determines that the driver exhibited two or more clues described above, then the driver should be classified as “intoxicated.”
ISSUES TO EXPLORE:
The WNT test requires police officers to give very specific instructions—and only when those instructions are properly administered—can the test be given validity in the courtroom. In my experience—police officers often fail to properly instruct drivers on how to perform the WNT.
Further, drivers are not told how the test will be scored—only the police officer knows what he or she is looking for.
Other issues that arise are if there was a real or imaginary line—really—what is an imaginary line? Also—road surfaces are uneven—and this may cause loss of balance. Drivers may simply be too nervous to properly perform the tests or have some medical or age condition that prevents them from “passing this test.”
In short—just because a police officer determines you are intoxicated and arrests you for DWI does not mean you are in fact guilty of DWI. You need to explore these and other issues with your DWI attorney so you can make a decision on whether to go to trial or work out a plea agreement.
GENARO R. CORTEZ
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